Personalities | Ritchie Blackmore | Ruler of the Riff | Guitar Heroes

His contemporaries Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck might receive more time in the spotlight, but guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (b. 1945) has been similarly influential and innovative during his 40-plus-year career.

Born in Weston-Super-Mare, England, in April 1945, Blackmore was given his first guitar at the age of 11 and began taking classical lessons, an education that would later reveal itself in both his neo-classical rock leanings and his Renaissance work in Blackmore’s Night. His early influences include rockers Hank Marvin and Cliff Gallup as well as country legend Chet Atkins. By the mid-Sixties, Blackmore began working as a session guitarist with legendary producer Joe Meek, appearing on tracks such as Heinz’s Top 10 hit ‘Just Like Eddie’ (1963).

In 1968, Blackmore joined forces with keyboardist Jon Lord and formed Deep Purple. Later that same year, the band released its first album, Shades Of Deep Purple. The disc included a cover of Joe South’s ‘Hush’, which reached No. 4 on the charts and put Blackmore’s group on the map. After a few more albums and a line-up change, Deep Purple released Machine Head (1972), which would become not only the band’s high-water mark but also one of the most influential hard-rock and heavy metal albums of all time. The album was to be recorded at a casino in Montreux, Switzerland, but the night before recording, during a Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention show, an audience member fired a flare gun inside the casino, igniting a fire that would burn the place to the ground. This turn of events proved to be a fortuitous one for Deep Purple, as it became the inspiration for their signature hit, ‘Smoke On The Water’ (1973), which contains arguably the greatest – and most widely recognized – guitar riff ever written. In fact, so powerful were the inverted power chords Blackmore used to create that riff that he revisited them to create the riffs to the later Deep Purple hits ‘Woman From Tokyo’ (1973) and ‘Knockin’ At Your Back Door’ (1984), as well as Rainbow’s ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ (1975).

‘Smoke On The Water’ may have the riff that made Blackmore’s guitar work immortal, but his solo in ‘Highway Star’, another standout track on Machine Head, is even more significant to his legacy. With his fiery double-picked lines, Blackmore ushered in the neo-classical shred style of guitar playing. It’s no secret that future shred-god Yngwie Malmsteen borrowed nearly as much from Blackmore as he did from Bach – from the scalloped fretboard of his Fender Stratocaster paired with several Marshall stacks to his employment of exotic scales in a hard-rock format.

Following Machine Head, Deep Purple’s reign began to dissolve. Further line-up changes would bring undesirable alterations to Blackmore’s hard-rock blueprint. Unhappy with the direction of the band’s emerging sound, the guitarist hooked up with Elf singer Ronnie James Dio and formed Rainbow in 1975. Their first album together, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975),...

To read the full article please either login or register .


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.